We sometimes forget that fantasy didn’t start with J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord Of The Rings. Before Frodo and friends set off on their epic hike, there were the fantastic stories of The Brothers Grimm, Hans Christian Anderson, and others who wrote fables about fairies and other fantastic beasts. It is in that tradition that we find Oak & Mistletoe (paperback, digital), a new fantasy novel by writer JZN McCauley.
So, what is Oak & Mistletoe about?
Well, it’s about a young woman who gets wrapped up in something she doesn’t understand, and while everything is spiraling out of control with magic curses, ancient druids, and tragedy, she has to find the courage and strength to overcome it all.
While Oak & Mistletoe is a fantasy novel, it sounds like it has a bit of romance and isn’t as dark as something like the Game Of Thrones or The Lord Of The Rings novels. Is that fair to say?
Yeah, I’d definitely say that. It’s nothing like the epic fantasy series of Game Of Thrones or The Lord Of The Rings. There are dark elements to it, dealing with evil from within and that of the bad guys, but I wouldn’t call it dark by any means. The romance is very mild and sweet, while the rest of it is an adventurous fairy tale style story.
Okay, given that, do you think that people who are into the Game Of Thrones or The Lord Of The Rings novels would appreciate Oak & Mistletoe, or do you think it’s something that would appeal more to fans of, say, the Twilight novels?
Hmm… I think that depends. If the reader mainly likes epic fantasies, then they probably wouldn’t appreciate Oak & Mistletoe at all. But if the reader enjoys fairy tales, myth and folklore, and adventure as main elements, whether it’s in an epic setting or not, then they should appreciate it. It really depends on your point of view. I totally loved The Lord Of The Rings, and still do, but I also enjoy other styles. Not so much Twilight, but that’s really another topic.
What authors, and which of their novels, do you think were the biggest influences on Oak & Mistletoe?
Well, I got to say, I actually didn’t have any influences from other authors or novels in writing this book. If anything, I’d say fairy tales from Grimm, Andersen, and others. They probably shaped the elements I used. But it’s just basic story plotting for adventure. I basically followed my own instincts in what I love in a story the most. I have a very overactive imagination, always have.
Were there any influences of a non-literary nature? Like any TV shows, movies, comics, video games?
Nope, none like that. Some real-life experiences in Ireland influenced it a bit, but none of them were magical and adventurous in the same way as the book.
Now, you’ve already said you’re working on a sequel to Oak & Mistletoe, which is tentatively titled The Oathing Stone, and is slated to be released this fall. Without spoiling anything in Oak & Mistletoe, what can you tell us about it?
Sadly, I can’t divulge much other than to say that the faeries are back in the picture and majorly so.
When in the writing of Oak & Mistletoe did you realize it wasn’t going to be a standalone novel and what made you think that?
Actually, I didn’t think of writing a sequel until a few months or so before Oak & Mistletoe‘s release. Oak & Mistletoe can still be read as a standalone novel, but I just saw more happen after it that I just have to continue on. Nothing really sparked the idea, it came out of nowhere, to be honest.
Is your thinking that this will be an ongoing series, or do you have a set number of books in mind?
Well, it’s going to be a trilogy, and I have the end already planned. I think it’ll be fitting for these characters, and it’s going to be a different vibe in the third book altogether. Also, I have a spin-off series coming after it, though that’s on the back burner right now. It has to do with the same fantasy world I’m building in Oak & Mistletoe, but it won’t involve the same characters. I’m not really sure if any of them will ever show up either, it’s very much still a work in progress.
On top of Oak & Mistletoe and The Oathing Stone, you also have an unconnected and standalone novel called A Bell Sound Everlasting coming out this summer. What can you tell us about that?
A Bell Sound Everlasting was my first published story, a novella that came out in 2014. It’s a mystical read, basically follows a young woman named Evey who starts to have visions of another time and place that disrupt her life. But I’ve made some dramatic changes to the original, and added material to make it a full-length novel.
Going back to Oak & Mistletoe, I have to ask you, how often have people asked you if the woman on the cover is supposed to look like actress Rachelle Lefevre from the Twilight movies?
You’d be the first one, [laughs]. I like Rachelle Lefevre, but I don’t see a resemblance personally.
So if Oak & Mistletoe was going to be made into a movie or a TV show, which would you prefer, and why, and who — aside from Rachelle Lefevre, of course — would you cast in the main roles and why?
I think I would prefer a TV show. That way the story doesn’t have to be rushed or drawn out, it can be just right.
As for the cast, I don’t know anyone who’d fit, I think they would have to be new faces.
Finally, if someone really enjoys Oak & Mistletoe, and they’re looking for something to read while waiting for A Bell Sound Everlasting and The Oathing Stone to come out, what would you recommend and why?
Well, I’ve been reading my friend Katherine Bogle’s medieval fantasy young adult book, Haven. It’s really good so far.